Sunday, May 1, 2011

Record Store Day with The Growlers

The first signs of Summer finally hit Orange County and Los Angeles today, causing the city of Silverlake to simmer with a sizzling heat. Right around the corner from Echo Park, directly on Sunset Blvd., is the thin corridor of a record store, called Origami Vinyl. On this sunny April 16th, the guys at Origami have opened their doors to the public to celebrate the Official National Record Store Day. Propped upon the wall rack closest to the entrance is a collection of the Growlers’ previous record releases like Hot Tropics, and Are You In Or Out? To commemorate Record Store Day, the Growlers are releasing a new addition to their vinyl collection, a 7” titled, Gay Thoughts.

Around 7pm, The Growlers roll right up to the curb outside Origami inside of their updated school bus named Lizzy. Taking charge of the wheel is bassist, Scott Montoya. Outside the store, a line is beginning to stretch down the sidewalk, causing a bit of a distraction to the traffic passing by. Inside the sweltering bus, guitarist Matt Taylor, keyboard player Kyle Straka, drummer Brian Stewart, previous percussionist Warren Thomas and the beautiful girlfriends, Brook and Emily, fit snug into their seating areas. One by one, each member exits the bus, presenting their sunburnt faces and tan shoulders to the growing crowd of fans that have been awaiting the band’s arrival.

As the sun begins to wane and the congested lights of Silverlake come alive in the darkness, lead singer Brooks Neilsen, who had driven separately, finally joins the band. After a quick run to the liquor store, the guys squeeze back onto their makeshift tour bus, sucking down tall cans and getting a few puffs in before heading inside. A huddle of pretty female fans linger out front the bus entrance, hoping for the chance to be invited in on the fun, but the guys choose to relax, watching videos together, rather than mingling with the hectic vibe outside.

Inside Origami, the employees are rushing around, attempting to keep the racks of records inside clean, and the crowd outside organized. In the midst of preparation, the phone continues to ring off the hook in anticipation of the free Growlers show about to take place. A little before 8pm, the record store ringleader begins to let the line trickle in bit by bit. Most of the crowd appears to be younger, Los Angeles locals, with a reoccurring image of dirty-indie-surf-skate-artistic-rock-kids. The temperature rises gradually as the fans file in, causing the corridor to radiate with a muggy heat that rises upwards towards the exposed wooden beams of the ceiling. Once the room fills capacity, the Growlers sneak in the back door located inside the pizza joint next door, through the hallway, up a winding metal staircase, and up into the loft storage space converted into a dangerously cool overhead stage.

Eyes lifted up towards the platform catch a clear view of Neilsen front and center, and Taylor off to the right, but because of the sharp angle, not much of Montoya, Straka, and Stewart can be seen. Despite the setup, the blocked vision doesn’t stop the crowd from swaying with a sweaty swagger to the ominous melodies crackling from the PA. Neilsen croons to the crowd, “I don’t know where I am, I think I’m lost in the badlands, don’t want to lose who I am, but I’m lost in the badlands.” These dark lyrics are an ironic choice to share with the audience of Los Angeles locals, considering the fact that morality tends to diminish in places like Hollywood and other surrounding cities.

Outside, another hundred people huddle around the front door, catching a glimpse of the Growlers through the tall paneled glass storefront. Fans have officially taken over Lizzy the bus, peering out through her open windows. A brave few have even climbed up the bus’ exterior and onto her roof, smoking cigarettes and moving their stationary body to the beat of song after song. Beach balls fly back and forth in the crowd, and as more people walk by, the group thickens with more and more of a Growler mob.

Neilsen hangs his feet over the edge of the stage, singing the morbid lyrics of “Sea Lion Goth Blues,” with a serious look on his face, and the contemplation of death on his mind. Right to the edge he teeters, and perhaps he’s determining whether or not to take that final step as he sings, “I’ve just been thinking about my Will, thinking about what mark I’ve made, and if I get killed, I wonder who’ll bring roses to my grave?” The cryptic lyrics continue through the rest of the Hot Tropics tracks played, but, as the extensive set progresses, it shifts towards a more positive outlook. The newest songs, “Gay Thoughts,” and “Feelin’ Good,” are officially introduced to the eager crowd. Although Death has fled from these two tunes, the satire and cynicism of Neilsen’s lyrics intertwine with the reoccurring ideas of moral ambiguity he cannot escape.

More than 15 songs in, and the guys decide to call it a night. But the audience wants more, pleading for an encore. Neilsen gets the nod from the Origami manager, and the PA comes alive yet again. Post encore, the swaying crowd outside cries for another encore, caught in the trance of the Growlers. The record store finally empties of sweaty attendees, fans crawl down off the bus, and the mass dissipates. The band continues to sell merchandise and linger with their devoted fans. From the open back door of the Lizzy, Brook peddles t-shirts and such while Neilsen wanders between the cracks of the crowd, humbly interacting with his followers.

After a full set, the Growlers now have their performance systematically wired in preparation of their two-month long National tour. As they travel, they will release their “Gay Thoughts” all over the country, including spots like New Orleans, Pennsylvania, and New York. The trend tonight consists of youth lingering for autographs, the chance for the surf/skate deviant to meet their favorite band member, and the opportunity for that pretty little female to snag a photo opportunity; all things that will no doubt continue as the Growlers travel on their tour. A few female followers huddle around Neilsen, one exclaiming that her picture with him was a, “profile pic, for fuckin’ sure!” Meanwhile her friend nearby couldn’t believe that, “Oh my God! He touched your face!”

Songs Played:

Wandering Eyes


Sea Lion Goth Blues


Camino Muerto

Acid Rain

Empty Bones

Let it Be Known

A Man With No God

Old Cold River

Wet Dreams

Stranger’s Road

People Don't Change

Gay Thoughts

Feelin’ Good

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